This nation is being held prisoner. Punch drunk, we lurch from insane moment to insane moment, led by a man who blurts something, anything to please the crowd. When one of a thousand arrows hits an emotionally charged target, President Trump embraces as immutable truth his own irrationalities and prejudices.

He continues to inflame a precarious situation with North Korea, reveling in Big Man talk, laughable in its childishness were nuclear weapons not in play and lives not at stake.

Speaking before the United Nations, North Korea Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Trump had made a missile attack on the U.S. mainland more inevitable by insulting the dignity of the country.

“Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!,” Trump tweeted back.

Good heavens, man, shut up. Your cartoonish statements embarrass a nation and imperil the world.

Meanwhile, feeding his insatiable lust for attention, Trump gleefully divides our nation between “us” – white people – and “them” – people of color. He cloaks overt race baiting in a mirage of patriotism and a miasma of red, white and blue.

During a rambling speech delivered last week in Alabama to a nearly all-white audience, Trump demanded professional football players who take a knee during the national anthem be fired. About 70 percent of NFL football players are African American.

The following Sunday, titillated by the attention his statements received, Trump pressed on, saying kneeling is “very disrespectful to our flag and to our country” and “owners should do something.”

Black people in this country are afraid of being shot to death, particularly young black men. You can both disagree with their overall take on police officers and sympathize with and understand their fears.

The only useful protests are public protests. What could be more public than an NFL game?

We are fortunate to live in a country with a set of guarantees spelled out in the U.S. Constitution. These include freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right of people peaceably to assemble and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Something became glaringly apparent this week: There is simply no form of political dissent African Americans can undertake that a segment of our fellow citizens would deem acceptable, whether it be in your face (thugs! violent lawbreakers!) marching as a group (paid provocateurs!) or taking a knee during the national anthem (unpatriotic!).

Here’s the cold, hard truth: This great country is not always so great to those who are not white, rich, straight and male.

It is not anti-American to protest racial injustice. Protest is the bedrock of America.

What you are seeing is free speech and freedom of expression in action, the First Amendment placed into motion in time-honored American fashion. A few bales of tea and the picture is complete.

In 1958, the incomparable Ralph McGill, an Atlanta Constitution editorial writer, wrote about a series of racially motivated bombings taking place across the South. He called them the “crop of things sown.”

“When the wolves of hate are loosed on one people, then no one is safe,” McGill said. “For a long time now it has been needful for all Americans to stand up and be counted on the side of law and the due process of law – even when to do so goes against personal beliefs and emotions. It is late. But there is yet time.”

We should not, must not, cannot, accept unequal application of our laws. When it happens, protests are not only inevitable, they are justified, needed and required.

The president would deny Americans their rights. In these eight or so depressing, demoralizing months he has held office, Trump has repeatedly attacked what most Americans hold dear: these constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

Trump cannot be allowed to continue to fan the flames of racial intolerance. This is an affront to decency, a cancer that would destroy our society, a darkness on this land.

It is late. But there is yet time. Make your stand – or take a knee – against hate.

Ellison is editor of The Sylva Herald.